Georgia’s Republican Governor, Nathan Deal, seems poised to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat by strong-arming the legislature away from pushing a bill to withdraw completely from imposing Common Core education standards on the state’s schools and toward implementing most of the Common Core policies this year.
State Senator William Ligon (R-Brunswick) was the voice against Common Core’s being forced on Georgia schools. In 2013 he led a coalition of citizens to try to pass a law that put a halt to the policies. Opposition to Common Core became so stiff that Governor Deal was forced to issue a May 15 Executive Order to attempt to quell a GOP rebellion; the EO pledged that “no educational standards will be imposed on Georgia by the federal government.”
Deal also pledged that no data will be collected on students “for the purpose of the development of commercial products or services.”
Gov. Deal did not, however, say that the state would avoid imposing Common Core on its own, only that it wouldn’t allow the federal government to do so.
In response, Sen. Ligon criticized the Governor’s order saying that it did not “ultimately move Georgia out of the Common Core Program.”
The response to the Governor’s empty Executive Order gave those Georgians who stood in favor of local control of their schools hope that Common Core was still facing stiff opposition in the legislature.
Even better, by June the State Republican Party had passed a resolution by a wide margin opposing Common Core.
Yet despite all that, by March of 2014 it seems that Governor Deal has been able to defeat those looking for local control of schools and is on the verge of implementing most of the Common Core standards with a Senate bill that is about to become law (SB 167). Worse for Common Core detractors, Senator Ligon is proclaiming victory and going right along with the Governor’s plans.
“What the bill does,” Ligon said on March 6, “it establishes an open, transparent process for the review of our standards. It establishes an advisory council to work with the state board to determine what our standards would be.”
How did the state GOP go from opposition to Common Core to back door implementation in just one year?
One reason may be money. Over $150,000 has flooded into the pockets of the Georgia politicians who serve on the very education committees in the State House and Senate responsible for rubber stamping Common Core standards. This money has come from Students First, a Common Core-pushing organization based in Sacramento, California.
Still, not everyone is in favor of this bill.
Even the Atlanta Journal Constitution says the bill is a bad one.
The paper points out that the bill sets up a new government body to “do what another appointed body already does” and seems to still allow data mining of student information despite Gov. Deal’s proclamation that this would not occur.
Despite the bill’s support by the State GOP, SB 167 is being lambasted by many who are usually on the GOP’s side.
Several representatives from the Educational Freedom Coalition (EFC) have said that SB 167 and its House counterpart HB 897 are both worse than useless and that doing nothing at all is better than passing them.
EFC is incensed that Sen. Ligon’s bill went from one meant to stop Common Core to one that implements nearly everything it originally opposed and urges Georgians to contact their legislators to oppose passage.
“We believe both [the] House and Senate bills are an attempt to re-brand Common Core, while in reality they make these standards permanent,” said EFC spokesman Rob Cunningham in a statement.
The group identifies the force behind this about face as none other than Governor Deal who will be given the power to exercise supreme control over the state’s educational establishment. As education expert Dr. Mary Kay Bacallao noted, “All educational control and authority will rest with an unelected State Board of Education, under the complete control of one person, the Governor.”
SB 167, EFC says, will still force teachers to “teach to the test,” continues the process of training teachers in Common Core standards, doesn’t stop student data collection – despite the Governor’s claims – and gives unelected state boards appointed by the Governor all power to control education, taking away all power from local school boards and school administrators.
Cunningham spoke to Breitbart and said he was disgusted that Gov. Deal and Senator Ligon are saying one thing and doing another on Common Core. He also says that doing nothing would be better than passing the current bills. “Right now, we are under no obligation to do anything” with Common Core standards, he said. “Passing this bill will give us Common Core, but right now, no body of law exists forcing it on Georgians.”
Much of this is falling on the teachers who are already hard pressed in the classroom, Cunningham said. Teachers are increasingly expected to rise above just being teachers. “Their classroom responsibilities now include nutrition, character development, parenting, sex education and family counseling, so the very last thing these teachers need are standards that are anti-scholarship and pushed by politicians who want to strip from them their ability to exercise their professional judgment. Teachers need certain freedoms to be creative and improvise in response to the individual needs of their students.” This bill eliminates that freedom, Cunningham said.
Those pushing nationalized Common Core standards, he said, “seem to think teachers are factory workers producing widgets, that they’re going to ‘fix education’ by measuring, testing and data collection.”
Cunningham also said that this bait and switch by even those Republicans who initially claimed they were against Common Core is an outrage.
Georgia, Cunningham said, is a bellwether for the rest of the nation. “This is the playbook that every other state is going to use to implement Common Core,” he warned.